Sunday, August 30, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2015, 2:25 PM
A Comcast truck is seen parked at one of its centers on February 13, 2014 in Pompano Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Comcast aims to crank up its entire U.S. cable network with blazing fast internet speeds in the next two years, shared Robert Howald, Comcast  VP of network architecture, in a telling chat with telecommunications trade publication FierceCable.

The sooner the better, we say.  An early 2015 study from digital traffic company Akamai ranked average U.S. internet connection speeds (48.8 megabits per second)  as 17th “fastest”  on a global scale,  trailing not only  high tech bastions like Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Israel but also relatively backwards nations like Romania, Uruguay and Latvia. The moral here:  Sometimes it helps to be late to the party, because when you finally do arrive all the bottles are uncorked, the bash  is in full swing. 

The  U.S.’s  much older cable infrastructure, built in less demanding (or imaginative) times, is the big bottleneck: antiquated “plants” that Comcast and other  cable companies now aim  to upgrade with a more efficient telecommunications transmission standard called DOCSIS 3.1 developed by Cable Labs.

POSTED: Monday, August 17, 2015, 3:25 PM
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Spam-Hogs Bryce and Washtub Cindy sent Fest Bot off on her journey at the Philly Folk Festival on Sunday.

How do we un-do the bad karma and bad press,  Philadelphia’s unfortunate, un-kind to-robots reputation? Maybe with Fest Bot – a most musically minded robot with the urge  to ramble, sure ‘nuf,  introduced yesterday at the final mainstage concert of the Philadelphia Folk Festival in Upper Salford.

 As noted  by concert co-emcee John Flynn, “The city really took  a p.r. hit with Hitchbot” – that hitchhiking Canadian robot  whose  journey abruptly  ended in a Philadelphia be-heading/dis-arming  earlier this month. “But with your help we can send Fest Bot out on a tour of other music festivals, and hopefully  next year she’ll return with stories to tell.”

Fest Bot is a brainless beast  made of  assorted plastic containers, with arms formed from the kind of flexi-hose you’d use to vent a dryer. A grass skirt is some giveaway it’s a “she,” though a fair share of folk fest gents were also wearing  manly Irish kilts on the grounds yesterday to get a chill on in the  Sunday heat. Your clue she’s a folk devotee? Fest Bot was adorned with PFF and Martin guitar stickers.

POSTED: Friday, August 7, 2015, 4:17 PM

There may be fewer local  TV channels on the air next year in Philadelphia and other markets, if  broadcasters are willing to take the money and run or downsize  their operations as participants in the so-called "broadcast incentive auction" firmed up by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

“We’ve got sixty days to say if we’ll participate,” said a local station manager  talking “off the record,  so as not to tip our hand.  Of course we’re considering  the options. The potential payouts are staggering.”

Philadelphia ranks as the fourth biggest television market in the U.S. by audience rating service Nielsen. But  given the heavy demands  – now and in the near future – contemplated by spectrum-craving mobile phone companies, our beach front broadcast properties rate third most valuable nationwide, in a projected compensation chart put out by the FCC to encourage auction participation.

POSTED: Thursday, August 6, 2015, 2:33 PM
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Dr. Dog goes on-the-prowl for the swamp thing.

Have old cassette tapes lying around, gathering dust?  Philly-based indie psych-pop faves Dr. Dog and  their new-found creative partners at Pig Iron Theatre Company hope you’ll bring some along to contribute to a grand experiment at Union Transfer next month. To, um, help  charge up the magnetic flux unlocking secrets from the great beyond.  Mysteries the artists aim to unravel in a concert and theater spectacle called “Swamp is On.”

A high profile production of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, “Swamp is On“ is described as  a “DIY concept-concert with shades of the ‘X-Files.’” The surreal deal includes a bunch of dark and buggy new tunes from Dr. Dog, visually translated by Pig Iron performers and designers with eccentric live video feeds.

Transmission will begin Wednesday, September 9 to Saturday, September 12, each night at 8 p.m. at the Spring Garden Street club.  Onlookers will  be pressed for a  $30 donation to the study (make yours at www.utphilly.com or www.fringearts.com.)  Proper footwear is advised as there will be no seats for the experiments (with danger a-foot?)  Following the mixed media event, Dr. Dog vows to lay down a full set of  favorites - hopefully yours as well as theirs.

POSTED: Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 2:26 PM
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Lighting strikes again.

Big on holiday connections, the Grateful Dead staged what was ostensibly their last-ever “Fare Thee Well” shows on the July 4th weekend in Chicago, with much fanfare and a multi-media marketing attack that allowed Philly folks to take in (and even write about) the shows as webcasts, pay-per-view and closed circuit club/movie theater happenings.

Today comes word that most, but not all of the original surviving members will keep on truckin’ as Dead & Company, making their debut on Halloween at Madison Square Garden.

What’s dif? Phil Lesh is out, Oteil Burbridge (of Allman Bros. fame) is in as bassist.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 4, 2015, 7:01 PM

Wonder what the President of the United States thinks about all you tech innovators?

Take a gander at  his remarks from the first Demo Day at the White House.

 4:14 P.M. EDT

POSTED: Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 12:59 PM
((iStock photo))

Should the classic ditty “Happy Birthday to You” be freed at last, free at last?

A hearing in California federal court on Wednesday inched the idea forward. But Judge George King was not prepared to blow out all the candles, let alone rule on new found  “smoking gun” evidence supporting  the music’s long-a-coming liberation.

Arguably the most familiar song ever written, “Happy Birthday to You” is the first tune you learned as an infant, likely the last song you’ll remember in dotage. Not a second goes by when it’s not being heartily sung, somewhere on earth.

POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2015, 12:43 PM
Annie Clark, St. Vincent guitarist. Clark was a portrait of cool reserve and St. Vincent was energetic and innovative Saturday night during the XPoNential Music Festival at Susquehanna Bank Center. (AVI STEINHARDT / For The Inquirer)

How do you measure the success of an outdoor music festival?

The high quality of the acts? The record-breaking number of attendees?  The increased internet buzz?

Clearly, this weekend’s adult-alt-rocking XPoNential Music Festival in Camden had all that going on.

About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them.. Reach Jonathan at takiffj@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Takiff Inquirer Columnist
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